Ten Ideas For Autumn Photography
The season of Autumn can be tricky for photographers, what with darker mornings and evenings, wind and rain, mist and fog and slippery leaves. But it can also be a great time to shoot colourful landscapes, interesting macro subjects and much more besides. Here are ten ideas to get you started.
Forests, woods and trees
Autumn wouldn’t be the same without trees. Nature puts on a colourful display, as the leaves turn from green to yellow, to orange, to red and finally brown. If you have a wide angle lens you can try and capture a broad scene, such as a valley or hill with lots of trees. However sometimes it is difficult to capture in camera, so look out for interesting groups or shapes like archways or avenues. Occasionally you only need one perfect specimen tree to represent the season. Don’t forget to experiment with different viewpoints, such as lying down and looking straight up. If you have a drone you can get great photos pointing directly down to the patchwork effect of the tree tops.
With cold nights and reasonably warm days, autumn often produces mist and fog, especially in the mornings. If you don’t mind an early start, you should be able to capture some peaceful scenes, with colourful trees in the background. Check your exposure carefully, as your camera may get confused by the unusual lighting. As the sun gets stronger, look out for beams of light breaking through the fog, or appearing through the trees.
If you struggle to find a decent group of trees or even a single specimen, you can always concentrate on the actual leaves. There are lots of different shots to try; a single leaf on a twig, a single leaf on a rock, a group of leaves on a tree or a pile on the ground. A macro lens would be best for close ups, while a medium telephoto may be required for clusters high up. As the leaves dry out you can try back lit shots to show their shape and structure. Another idea is to collect leaves from one tree over a few weeks, until you have a collection of five or six showing the changes from green through to brown.
Fruits, nuts and fungi
Autumn is the season for fruits, nuts and berries, but is also a good time to see fungi as well. A macro lens works best for close up shots, but you may require a medium zoom to capture the small subjects higher up. If you want to shoot mushrooms and toadstools you may need a flash, as well as a tripod, as they are often located in woods where there is limited light. Have a look around the base of different trees and you should find a number of seeds, nuts and cones, which are good for still life and macro images.
As the leaves fall off the trees, twigs and branches are exposed. This makes it easier to find and photograph birds. The summer visitors will have gone, but the resident species are soon joined by winter migrants. Many will be busy looking for berries on the trees or grubs under the fallen leaves. Keep an eye out for rare species which may get blown off course and end up in your vicinity. Birds can be difficult to photograph, but with a long lens, lots of practice and knowing the best places, you should be able to get some good results.
As the days start to get shorter and colder, animals start to look for food so they can fatten up ready for winter. Some species will also stash supplies so they can dig them up later when there is less food about. While they are busy searching you might be able to get a few shots. Keep a look out for foxes, badgers, rabbits, hedgehogs and squirrels. Good field craft, a long lens and plenty of patience will help. Autumn is also the time when deer stags compete for the right to mate, known as the rut. This action makes for a great photo, but keep your distance as they can be unpredictable.
Rivers, lakes and waterfalls
Scenes with water in often make great pictures, but in autumn you have the added bonus of colourful trees. Waterfalls and fast flowing rivers work well with long exposures, leaving the water blurred against sharply defined rocks. Lakes and reservoirs can be shot with the autumnal foliage behind them, often producing reflections. If you use a wide angle lens, try and remember to include some foreground interest.
As the trees loose their leaves, you should be able to photograph some great silhouettes. You may need to practice if you haven’t tried them before, but basically you need to expose for the sky, leaving the backlit subject in silhouette. Look for strong shapes with clearly defined outlines. Don’t try to include too many subjects, keep it simple.
Sun rises and sunsets
After the summer has gone and winter is not far away, the sun begins to rise at a more normal time. With mist and fog, colourful trees and a good sunrise, you just need to be in the right place at the right time. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, as autumn can be very changeable. As the days get colder you may get a few frosty mornings with clear skies and bright sunrises. At the other end of the day you may get to capture beautiful sunsets. Don’t forget to take your tripod when you go out, as the sun is lower in the sky and there will be less light about.
If you don’t like traditional landscape or wildlife photography, you could always try abstract. There are plenty of different colours and shapes around in autumn, so experiment and have fun. There are the obvious subjects like tree bark and leaves, but look out for unusual fungi, nuts and berries. Also the lighting conditions can produce interesting shots, with starbursts and beams of light.
Sometimes it is hard to capture in camera what you can see with your own eyes. If you get frustrated, just put your kit away and carry on walking. Take time to enjoy the beautiful colours and try to relax. After a while you might turn a corner and come across a brilliant vista, just waiting for you to photograph.